Signs that a free service is not running good

With smashill I am researching different ways to test out the waters of the creative money making ocean. One thing is pretty obvious, don’t buy into a service that offers a pro and an amateur version. In case you are creating stuff and sell it through a site they service usually charges a fee for each product you sell with them. You can decide how big your winnings for each piece are, but after all you give them a share. This is a good model. Every gallery owner takes a piece of the pie, even in real life, fair is fair, after all they are giving you a space to showcase your work.

Nevertheless don’t trust people who want to sell you an additional service. After all they are already making money with your stuff. There are galleries where you can upload a certain number of works with a specified amount of webspace. Let’s say 100 pictures and 500MB. Sounds reasonable? Well… high quality prints could use larger files… but ok, let’s forget about this part. Now this service offers a pro version for an additional fee per year giving you more space and a few more features.

Why do they do this? Easy, their gallery does not make enough money itlself! SO…they have to get money from the artists. You are already paying them with a commission(!), so there should be no reason to charge more money from you. After all you either make them money or you don’t. There are better systems that would reward real artists. For example after a certain amount of sales you can upload another set of images. Let’s say you have an initial amount of 50 images. You upload those and can’t upload more… until you have sold maybe 200 or 300 files. Then you can upload 50 more. Something like that. Amateur artists have to work harder to get their art sold, while the others are rewarded for stuff that sells.

Or they leave this system completely and it’s up to you how much you invest, which is the best way to go. Why is this the best way? Pretty easy, you give the website content for free and they get money from your sales. It’s a win-win situation. Don’t trust people who want money from you. In case you are that famous you are probably better off with your own web-shop or selling at another place.

Wacom Intuos3 A3 arrived

My new tablet just arrived! πŸ˜€
Well this little thing… little? Did I really write little? Actually it’s huge. Anyways the Wacom Intuos3 is a great tablet. It may be a bit more expensive than the no-name counter parts, but to be honest, it rocks and is worth every cent. I really love it. I just have it for a few hours and I can’t wait to be able to use it to the fullest. It always takes time to get adjusted, especially since my old intuos, back in the days when they did not even have a number as they were the first… was already nice, but it did not work with my new computer anymore. It’s such a pity.
So far I am more than amazed what this little baby can do. The pressure sensitivity is just about right, the drawing area is perfect and I can’t think of a better equipment for my creatives ventures than my camera. And maybe a piece of paper and a pen, but I can use my wacom for that now πŸ™‚ I will write an in depth review probably in about two weeks. It will just take some time to check it out to be able to write an honest review and not such an “I am so happy that I got it” article.
Off to the drawing board πŸ˜€

100 Things I did not earn a fortune with – Squidoo

Ever heard of squidoo? It’s a service to create 1 site internet pages for free. It’s plastered with advertisement, but strangely the sites you create there can rank extremely well in search engines. However my earnings there render to about 5$, probably I did not pick the right products to promote or rather write the right things people would like to know more about.

The advantages of Squidoo

First of all, it’s free. It’s the brainchild of Seth Godin, who is pretty good at marketing. It’s pretty much a cash cow for google’s adsense, the winnings are split between squidoo and it’s members, the higher your lens ranks the more money you get from this. Otherwise you can add “modules” to your site very easy and link to products or services to make extra bucks. That’s what Squidoo is intended to be. A place for people to make money with squidoo and share it with the owners. Content pretty much for free. There are some people making a killing with it, that’s for sure.
The real advantage is the link juice. In case you build a lens, add 1-4 backlinks to it from an article directory, social bookmarking or whatever comes to your mind with relevance towards your lense and you create a pagerank of 1-3 pretty fast. Squidoo is good from a SEO point of view, just like article marketing. You write something and just want to get those backlinks to your site so it can rank better for certain search terms.

Besides this there is a pretty friendly community surrounding Squidoo, even though there are quite a lot of people just pitching their stuff. Most of them are very friendly and will help you out when you ask them to.

The disadvantages of Squidoo

Shared revenue, all the integrated modules share the money you make with squidoo. This is ok as Squidoo offers a cool community and free dummy simple website creation. Far worse is that you are creating something with pretty little value in terms of long term value. In case you are really creating a squidoo site for the content and not the backlinks, you have to fear that most people will visit your lense just once and then be gone. In case you have your own website there is always the chance that people bookmark or subscribe to the things you are writing and come back to your site.
A free service is ok, but the best way to go is create your own website as a headquater and maybe have some outposts on free services that will supply your HQ with some additional support.

Money Making Potential for Creatives?

Well, you can make money, but the money making potential for squidoo itself is around 2 out of 10 for creatives. You have to pick the right topics, hope that others don’t write about it and try to get in the rankings or get people to buy stuff, but the money is not in squidoo itself, it’s in other services that you have to combine with them such as affiliate marketing or selling your own products.

However it is great to create backlinks or reviews for your own sites and products, as search engines like squidoo, just as they like article marketing. Your site is ranking poorly or receives almost no search engine traffic? Consider building links to it with Squidoo. It’s fast and easy, and best of all does not cost a dime besides your time.

Places to sell your analog Art

Artists are the big winners of the internet. Back in the days it took ages to find a gallery or dealer to sell your art. Nowadays there are plenty of different sites that you can use to sell your own stuff. Here are four of the biggest players in the online art market.
I didn’t test them out myself, as most of them are based in the US market and I don’t feel the need to ship my art over the big ocean…

Artbreak Seems to be a monster. It looks big, there is plenty of art, ranging from 10$ to a few hundreds.
Etsy Your stop for everything handmade. Not so much art, more hand crafted beautiful things for your home.
Boundless Gallery Another gallery to sell your art. I didn’t test this one out either.
dawanda This place is a bit like etsy, but for an European Customer base, which is far more my taste and I am sure that I will use this within the next 2 months and tell you how it works out. They take a commision for each sale, but that’s ok, you don’t have to pay upfront fees. And there is the possibilty to order some cheap advertisement spots on their site.

Those four are pretty big at the time I am writing this article, so in case you create art and don’t sell it yet, check those out. At least if you want to sell… if not feel free to decorate your own walls πŸ˜‰

Smashill earnings, stats and thoughts for February 2009

Well, as this project is just starting out, and all the projects I created for this website are in the making, my profits for this particular project are at exactly 0$ πŸ˜€ Stunning figure ain’t it? Well, nothing to be ashamed of, we all have to start somewhere. My plan is to make around 200$ by the middle of the year and between 500-1000$ by the end of the year. Pretty ambitious? I don’t think so, it would be awesome if each and every small project starts to generate about 10-30$ per month, and the more products I add the more money I can probably make. On the long run this might add up to some nice additional income. I am not trying to quit my job, I just would love to substitute it with smashill and the projects related to this blog.

Project Stats & Earnings

I got approved at i-stock this month, after 3 attempts, but none of my files have been approved yet. Most of the pictures I uploaded there are pictures I would have done for myself, and probably quite a lot of them will get declined. Maybe, or maybe not. I still have to find out if I am too artsy for commercial pictures or not. What’s funny though is that one of the pictures that I got accepted with was rejected this time, which I actually think is pretty funny. πŸ˜†

My Zazzle Gallery is growing, but I have not sold anything just yet. I didn’t have the time to create a custom store and market it properly, but that’s probably better once I hit 20-30 products. So far you can see what I have produced in my gallery.
Mygall seems interesting, you have 500MB and 100 images you can upload and sell. It’s a site that is located in Germany, but as for everything this month, I have yet to make a sale here. I decided to go for a pretty high royalty rate here, as most of my pictures are not for the mainstream, which would justify lower prices.

Equipment on the way
Yesterday I placed my order for my graphic tablet, which will be a Wacom Intuos A3, I picked one up at amazon for a discount due to the package being damaged and the product having a few scratches. Hopefully the whole thing will still be working, which I am pretty sure it will. I don’t care if there are 1 or 2 scratches, as long as the surface is ok and there are no pieces missing. Otherwise I still have a 30 day money back guarantee.

Site Stats

Starting on February 11., 12 Post and 1 comment. These stats are pretty ok for a brand new site, …without promotion at least. I do not intent to do real marketing just yet, as I have other projects to finish this month. So I will make up my mind how I promote this site in April. The good part is, I am already ranking in the search engines and receive some minor google traffic, which might be killed by a sandbox any given day, but we will see that.


Outlook for March

The plan is to continue publishing useful posts every other day, document my journey towards creative freedom and find some great resources. Blabla, yadda yadda πŸ˜‰
My goals for march are 300 unique Visitors, more than 10 feed subscribers, 5 comments, 5 files approved at istock and earn at least 5$ with my creative output πŸ˜€ Hopefully I will have my new tablet within the next few days, after that my creative digital output should multiply.

Stock vs. Art Prints

When it comes down to creating things for other most designers don’t have a chance to fully live out their creative souls. Somehow we all have to make ends meet, but besides doing stuff for bread and butter, what should you do in between jobs? As a creative you always have choices, you can create stuff for yourself, paint pictures, take photos or design t-shirts to name a few things.

Two of the easiest things an artist can do are Photo or Vector Stock, or selling Art as art prints. But what is better? What gives the better revenues?

The fun of Stock Art

When you are creating stock art you have some very nice and interesting challenges! One way to approach Stock is to sell leftovers of others jobs that were paying your rent. For example you created a set of icons that are left over now and can sell them at a stock site. Or, which is one of my favorites, you can actually approach stock art with a scientific approach, research and look what people buy, or create your own killer art for niches where you think the potential is high. The best part is that you can create whatever you want, at least if it is on a high technical level. You can do what you want and test if there are people buying it. The more you have, the more you can potentially sell. As with everything else stock can be a numbers game, but it must not be. You can upload 20 pieces that you love, but no one downloads and then the next piece is making a killing. You never know what you will make. Some people might call this a risk, but no risk, no fun πŸ˜‰

The love for Art Prints

Art Prints are even better than Stock Art when it comes to do what you love. You can simply create your art and upload it to some site that offers art prints of your work. Zazzle for example. You can promote those pieces on your site and get a share of the revenue. You don’t have to get files approved, can do whatever you want to do, you just have to find people that dig your style and buy your art. Simple as that. You can make a lot, get a name, whatever. You weed out a lot of people in between when you self publish your art. The problem is that you have to take care of marketing and presentation. If you rock at this you can make a killing with art prints, and if you already have a name, you can probably get some better deals, or use this as an additional source of income.

Passive income for the Win

No matter which way you choose, or if you do it both, passive income should be what every artist strives for. Corporate art like stock art is a great way. Especially in financial crises when people don’t have much money to spend you can make a good living from a lot of people with a little money. It’s no substitution for your real art, photo’s or whatever you do. It’s something you can easily do in between, or use leftovers or you specialise in it. There are people with 400-500 files being downloaded 60.000 times +, each download worth a couple of bucks. Especially generic vector stock sells very well considering the amount of time spend on the files. Try to create a few income streams that might grow into real rivers, but even a few raindrops are a nice addition for the notoriously underfunded artists that are out there.

Webhosting 101

In one of the recent articles I wrote about the need for an artist to have a website. Now you need a hosting company. You better pick a good one, which is not necassarily an expensive! A webhost is a company that takes care about your website. It makes the site available to the world wide internet population so it is an important factor during your online adventures.

  • If your website is slow, visitors are annoyed!
  • If your website is offline, your business is closed!
  • If you have too low volume on your hosting plan, but create killer artwork and content and recieve high traffic, you might pay more or the host might take your website offline or put it on a slower server.

Things to consider when picking a webhost

  • How much webspace do you get?
  • What does the webhost offer besides webspace? php, mysql, shopping carts?
  • How much traffic is in your package?
  • How fast are the servers? How many people are on one server in case you pick shared host?
  • How many email accounts can I create?
  • Linux or Windows?
  • How is the customer support?

There are a few very solid hosting companies around, two I have had experiences with and would recommend are Hostgator, which is the hosting company of my choice. The other one is Bluehost, which a few of my friends use and is very good performance wise.

Hostgator – smashill is hosted on hostgator servers, so you can get an image of the server speed. I really like the great customer support and fast shared hosting. There are a lot features and I will list a few more … unlimited Disk Space, unlimited Bandwidth, Host unlimited Websites, Instant Setup, 99.9% Uptime Guarantee, 45 Day Money Back Guarantee, CGI, PHP 5, RoR, Perl, MySQL, SSH, SSL, IMAP, POP, 24/7/365 Upgraded Support starting at $7,95 per month

Bluehost – Is another solid hosting company. Fast hosting, cheap prizes, unlimited Hosting Space web hostingHost UNLIMITED Domains, 2,500 POP/Imap Email Accounts, SSH (Secure Shell), SSL, FTP, Stats CGI, Ruby (RoR), Perl, PHP, MySQL 2000/2002 Front Page Extensions starting at 6,95$ per month